As World War II took hold in Europe, the economy of the United States – which didn’t enter the war until 1941 – was rebounding from the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected for his third term. In sports, Joe Louis defeated challengers in four separate fights to retain his heavyweight boxing title. Jimmy Foxx hit his 500th career home run and Byron Nelson won his first PGA championship. In entertainment, Frank Sinatra made his singing debut and Gone With the Wind won eight Academy Awards. Tom and Jerry cartoons and the Brenda Starr comic made their debuts, and comic-book readers saw Flash, Green Lantern, Lex Luthor, and Batman’s sidekick Robin for the first time.
Batman’s first appearance in 1939’s Detective Comics #27 was a hit, so in 1940, DC gave the superhero his own title. A copy of Batman #1, graded CGC NM- 9.2, sold for $567,625 at an August 2013 Heritage auction.
In 1939, Norman Rockwell moved to Arlington, Vt., where his work began reflecting small-town life. His oil-on-board study The Census Taker, the final version of which appeared on the April 27, 1940, edition of The Saturday Evening Post, sold for $372,500 at a May 2018 Heritage auction.
After 21 seasons in Major League Baseball and induction into the Hall of Fame in 1936, legendary shortstop Honus Wagner was a coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. A single-signed baseball from this period, circa 1940, sold for $40,630 at a November 2016 Heritage auction.
Mickey Mouse’s role as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was meant to be a stand-alone short. But Walt Disney decided to turn the project into his third animated feature. An original one-sheet poster for Fantasia sold for $17,925 at a November 2008 auction.
This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2020 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.